The Karst Shepherd (Slovene: kraševec or kraški ovčar) is a breed of dog of the livestock guardian type, originating in Slovenia. This Mountain dog breed is recognised under sponsorship from Macedonia by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale.
The Karst Shepherd is named after the Karst Plateau in Slovenia and Italy, and more generally after the Karst landscape that extends to Croatia and partly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the Gulf of Trieste to the Dinaric Alps. Mostly bred in Slovenia and Istria in Croatia. The ancestral type of the modern day breed travelled with shepherds through this area, and most likely came with ancient nomadic pastoralists. In 1689, the etnographer Janez Vajkard Valvasor mentioned the shepherd's dogs of the area in his work The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola without description of dogs. In the 20th century, when the landrace shepherd dogs began to be documented as a modern breed, it was first referred to as the Illyrian Shepherd (1939). Karst Shephard and Šarplaninac were considered Type A and B of the Illyrian Shepherd Dog by the Yugoslavian Federation of Cynology for some time, leading to some cases of crossing between both breeds. After comparing typical dogs of both "Types" the Federation recognised Karst Shephard and Šarplaninac as two distinct breeds in 1968.
The Fédération Cynologique Internationale recognises the breed in Group 2, Section 2.2 Molossoid breeds-Mountain type, number 278. The breed has also been exported to the United States, where it is recognised by The United Kennel Club in the Guardian Dog Group. The breed is also recognised by various minor kennel clubs and internet-based dog registry businesses, and is promoted as a rare breed for those seeking a unique pet.
During the 20th century there were several periods when the number of Karst Shephards was low. Fearing inbreeding a decision was made to introduce a single male Newfoundland into the population. The total number (including puppies, sterilised dogs and dogs not suitable for breeding) of Karst Shepherds in 2008 was estimated between 600 and 700.
A breeding program was accepted in 2009 to boost the number of dogs, improve their characteristics and preserve their genetic diversity. To avoid popular sire effect every sire can father up to 3 litters, sire must be unrelated to the dam (no common great grandparents), genetic distance between them must be higher than 0.45. Dogs with heritable diseases, atypical physical and behavioural characteristics are excluded from the program. Exceptions are possible with DLVKOS permission.